February 29th, aka, Leap Day, is an occasion for news outlets to publish frivolous stories about the quirky fate of having a birthday that comes once every four years. But this year, we've noted a hint of darkness.
The typical Leap Day story opens with some variation on "Frank is 64 years old, but Wednesday he'll be celebrating his 16th birthday." And while that odd, heartwarming stuff may inspire you to skip the story, read through some of today's Leap Day stories and you're likely to find something altogether more negative, like the Reuters story about Leap Day birthdays that abruptly ends:
For most people, February 29 is a quirky extra day to enjoy life but for at least one person it's Doomsday. Arizona death row inmate Robert Henry Moormann, 63, is scheduled to be executed on Leap Day for beating, stabbing and strangling his adoptive mother and dismembering her body during a "compassionate furlough" from prison to visit her in 1984.
Just like that, the story is over. It's undoubtedly the darkest moment we found in the many, many February 29 birthday stories that ran this week, but there are other milder downers, like this from a CNN story:
Jacob Jacob (yes, that's his real name), of Atlanta, feels like his birthday is forgotten more often than not, especially in an age where most people remember birthdays thanks to Facebook reminders.
"One year, only four people wished me a happy birthday, three of which included my mother, father, and brother," he said.
Poor, Jacob Jacob! Meanwhile, The Boston Globe provides a window into how the jealousies of a child can linger deep into adulthood, with its tale of one man born on February 28th:
“I went to elementary school with a girl who was born on the 29th, and she would always intrude on my birthday, then when hers did come around they’d make such a big deal about it,’’ said Rob Hagopian of Somerville, who was born a few hours before Leap Day in 1976. “They got all the attention, and when you’re a kid, you don’t want to share your birthday with someone who doesn’t have a birthday at all."
Keep in mind, this happened three decades ago, but apparently the scars of a childhood birthday overshadowed remain raw.
The overall takeaway from most of these articles is that Leap Day births are an occasion to celebrate even harder. Sure they present some mild obstacles, but like being left-handed or double-jointed, it becomes a fun fact people can remember you by. Again, not so for everyone. This CNN anecdote follows one about someone who "goes all out" on the once-every-four-years birthday. But then, a counterpoint from another Feb. 29th baby that reads like the opening to a Roald Dahl novel:
She was raised by her grandparents, and it was difficult for them to throw her extravagant birthdays when she was younger. Every leap year birthday would be a small celebration with cake and dinner at home, and the three non-birthdays in the middle were nothing too special, she said.
For its obligatory Leap Day story, Time did away with the fluff and went straight to the dark side: "You’d think a Feb. 29 birthday would be an auspicious thing... Alas, a scan of celebrities born on Leap Day suggests potentially bad tidings." They then list two serial killers, a Real World cast member who died before his time, a motivational speaker, and Ja Rule, the implication being that you should not want to share your birthday with these people. "But all is not lost. Some leaplings grow up to have long, fruitful, healthy lives," they console us.
What can we say about these moments? It's not that we expect news reports to provide us only the bright side of things, but when we click on an article that opens "Suzy is 40 years old but she turns 10 today!" we've come to expect a certain mindless pleasantry, not a report on the crimes of those set to be executed on Suzy's 10th-but-actually-40th birthday. Still, we can't say we mind. These grim takes on the day add a little drama, a bite of humanity, to keep us going as we inevitably read through each last one of them.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.